GCSE results day 2014: Michael Gove's reforms mean schools need to prepare for a shock, expert claims

 

Education Editor

Many schools - especially in disadvantaged areas - will face a “sharp shock” when they get their GCSE results tomorrow, a leading exam expert has warned.

They will see their results drop as former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s reforms to the examination system target schools who have been “gaming” the system, according to Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckinghamshire University.

The shake-up of GCSE exams is likely to increase the gap in performance between schools in rich and poor communities. However, because of the range of changes to this year’s exams, including some schools benefiting from end-of-course exams and a huge drop in early entrants, many of whom got low grade passes, the overall results could even show a slight improvement, he added.

Professor Smithers told The Independent that the schools most likely to suffer would be those serving disadvantaged areas struggling to meet minimum targets set by the Government for GCSE passes.

In the past, the schools would have been able to put pupils in for multiple resits of their English and maths exams in the hope of pushing them towards a C grade pass, which would have boosted the school’s position in exam league tables.

Now, though, this practice has been outlawed with only the first sitting of a subject counting towards the league tables.

In addition, Professor Smithers argued, coursework has in the past helped motivate struggling pupils by letting them see what they have achieved during the course. Now, however, there is more focus on the end-of-course exam.

“If you’re a school in the middle of a council estate where some of the pupils don’t want to be there, you have to think of things that will encourage them to help you meet the minimum requirement,” he added. “If you can do that by giving them practice at the exam and giving them a lot of help to succeed, you will do that.”

At present, the floor target for schools is that 40 per cent of pupils should get five A* to C grade passes including maths and English, while a certain percentage of pupils (last year 73 per cent) have to make an expected level of progress in English and maths since entering secondary school. For instance, a pupil who arrived with a level five in their national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds would be expected to get a B grade pass.

If a school fails to reach the minimum target, then the head’s job is likely to be put in jeopardy and it could be forced to become an academy with a private sponsor appointed to run it.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said: “No doubt some commentators will be rushing to applaud the reintroduction of ‘rigour’ into the GCSE qualification. The reality is that the Coalition Government’s interference with, and calculated denigration of the GCSE qualification has caused uncertainty and anxiety.”

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “We believe that scrapping coursework as a component of final grades so that everything hangs on how students perform in two-hour end-of-course exams disadvantages those who build skills and knowledge consistently over the course.”

Despite the prospect of some schools seeing their results fall, others could do well out of the reforms so a slight rise in the pass rate is not out of the question when the 600,000 teenagers taking GCSEs get their results today.

The switch to end-of-course exams is said to favour boys at the expense of girls, for instance, while the huge drop in the numbers taking their exams early - down from 843,000 to 504,000 - could weed out some pupils who never quite managed to obtain a C grade pass.

Ofqual, the exams regulator, has warned schools to expect more “volativity” in the exam results this year.

“Overall the results could be up, down or remain about the same,” said Professor Smithers. “Individual schools are likely to be affected differently according to how much they relied on gaming the old system so for some there could be sharp shocks in store.”

What's different this year?

There are a range of changes affecting this year’s exam results,

The most obvious is the decision that only a candidate’s first sitting of a subject will count towards the Government’s league tables. It has seen the number of early entrants plummet from 843,000 to 504,000 this year. The change is likely to hit the results of schools who believed the best way to obtain a C grade was by borderline C/D grade students having several bites of the cherry. Conversely, some pupils may do better by having a further year’s study before sitting their exam

The shift from coursework to end-of-course testing is thought likely to benefit boys than girls, who are said to be more methodical in their approach to learning, but affect those struggling to learn who, experts say, draw encouragement by seeing how they have done in modules along the way to the final exam.

In addition, in English, speaking and listening tests - considered again as an opportunity by some schools to boost struggling candidates’ grades - no longer count towards the final grade. Also, there has been a substantial drop in take-up of English and English language as candidates desert to the international GCSE following the marking controversy of two years ago which saw confidence levels in the GCSE drop. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Practitioner - Faringdon

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunity for you to jo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Developer - Cirencester - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have be...

Recruitment Genius: Primary School Sports Coach

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Calling all talented Level 2 qu...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us